Audrey Wurdemann

Five Poems by Audrey Wurdemann

From Testament of Love

I know that true love comes, when it must come,
Not like a comet’s blaze, a meteor,
A storm-lashed window, a storm-shaken door,
But quietly, as tired folk go home;
Like finding bread and milk and honeycomb
Quite confidently where we found before;
Like hearing music all men else ignore,
A magic flute or a magician’s drum.
Such love is not a sop to wounded pride,
A poultice on the shoulder of despair,
A secret jewel jealousy will hide
To soothe the heart of some dim attic stair;
But song and rest and strength beyond our wishes
That double like divided loaves and fishes.


The Secret Heart

Suppose we never met! Suppose you were
That casual figure on the station bench,
Waiting for trains that might go anywhere.
Suppose your gaze from mine pulled with a wrench
When the long whistle shrieked the train has come
You sucked a slow drag from your cigarette,
And gathered up your handbag—and my doom—
Suppose you were some man I never met!
Such were impossible; I do not think
Had our eyes looked upon each other, any
War, mad fashion, death, disaster’s brink
Or ticket to paradise would mean a penny.
But on the instant, one the other follow
Sure as her mate pursues the southbound swallow.


Spring Song

The sweet wild dogwood wears its flowers
Through silent shadow-patterned hours,
And ivory cream-cups make a star
Where robin and wake-robin are.
The judas-tree let crimson drip
From each spire-pointed finger-tip,
And bishop’s croziers unfold
To dust the ginger-root with gold.
Then, gathering all her loveliness,
Spring goes, and leaves us no address.


The Word

A thin little bitterness,
Edged like a sword,
Slid in between them
After a word.
It was none of their making.
They hardly knew
How the knife’s acid
Ever etched through.
Now they walk carefully,
Each to his own,
And their lean sharp silence
Walls them in stone.



When she first came there, Pluto wept,
Streaking cinders down his face,
While she competently slept
In her alloted place.
She catalogued the little hells,
Cupboarded the fires,
And placed in tabulated wells
Old lost desires.
She made His Lordship stoop to gather
Ashes from the floor;
She regulated stormy weather,
And polished Hades’ door.
The Devil was unhappy in
Such cleanliness and space.
She said it was a mortal sin,
The way he’d kept the place!
Now, after several million years,
(For time can reconcile),
He tip-toes with quite human fears
About their domicile.


Audrey Wurdemann (Janury 1, 1911 – May 20, 1960) won the Pulitzer Prize in 1935 for her book Bright Ambush, and, at age 24, was the youngest winner of that award. She was the great-granddaughter of Percy Bysshe Shelly and published five volumes of poems, the first, The House of Silk (1927) when she was only 16, and the last a book entirely of sonnets, called Testament of Love (1938). Born in Seattle, WA, Wurdemann attended the University of Washington, then travelled in the US and Asia. In 1933, she married another poet, Joseph Auslander. When he was named the first US Poet Laureate, she became the administrator of that office. She also served as national president of the National League for American Women. She and Auslander moved to Coral Gables, FL after his term at the Library of Congress ended in 1941. With her husband, she co-wrote short fiction and two novels, My Uncle Jan (1945) and The Islanders (1951).